To all my friends in SODELPA I have a question I think you need to ponder.
I would not be telling you anything if I said that Frank Bainimarama has broad approval in the Indo-Fijian community but the question you have to ask is: what has he done to earn that approval?
It is certainly not this ‘reform’ of the sugar industry. He made himself Minister for Sugar but he’s provided no leadership at all, apart from taking on the chore of jet-setting to ISO meetings. He has brought to the edge of destruction an industry built with the sweat and tears of generations of Indo-Fijians.
So what is the source of the Bainimarama appeal, which has allowed a bumptious, poorly educated thug to have this broad appeal among Indo-Fijians. If I had to single out one thing that’s given him a bit of appeal it would be his decision to call us all Fijian.
It was always confusing trying to explain to people who didn’t know Fiji that only some of our population were ‘Fijian’. We need to face the fact that our unique history as a small island state in the Pacific is not well known in the wide world, so this linguistic anomaly inevitably caused confusion, not to say awkwardness outside Fiji.
The 1987 coup was more than a dispossession of basic democratic rights. It was a time when people did not feel safe, when they didn’t know what would happen next after experiencing a coup that struck like lightning out of a clear blue sky, but the dispossession went beyond that. It was a dispossession of a right to a sense of identity. Bainimarama’s decision on a new national name healed wounds more effectively than any number of apologies from Rabuka.
Bainimarama hit gold with his decision to call us all Fijian, but let’s not give him more credit than is due. His feelings about this are more likely to spring from empathy for the Kai Loma identity rather than empathy for our Indo-Fijian brothers and sisters. Frank has long had a sense of disdain for things ‘native’; he sees himself as a progressive, a town dweller, not come kai colo from the village, he went to Marist, not QVS, he worked his way up through the ranks, he’s an achiever, not an idle Bauan.
SODELPA leaders would be doing their cause a favour by giving thought to the feelings of their fellow Fijians. This is a change for the better which would be better still if it had support from all communities.
One of the first things a reconvened BLV could do is give its blessing to our new national identity and the Party positioned to provide the leadership needed to do this is SODELPA. Ro Teimumu would be acting as a truly national leader if she pledged to take this to the BLV. It would not be right to speak for the BLV but she can speak for herself as someone who wants to lead the whole nation.
Sa dri yani!